If you’re familiar with the boat building industry, you probably associate Philippine Mahogany with the iconic Chris Craft boats dating back to the 1930s. Of course, the fact that this unusual species works for boats means that it’s more than suitable for other exterior projects, too.
Philippine Mahogany works well for exterior applications such as trim, siding, and windows. Or it did. Technically, what we’ve historically known as Philippine Mahogany is no longer available, though. The good news is that Meranti, today’s Philippine Mahogany, is actually more sustainably managed than traditional Philippine Mahogany ever was, and it’s actually an even better option for exterior projects.
Where Meranti Comes From
Technically, Meranti isn’t even close to being in the Mahogany family. Unlike Genuine Mahogany, which comes from South America, Meranti actually comes from Southeast Asia. It can still be referred to as “Philippine Mahogany,” but Meranti is not a Mahogany at all. It never was.
The traditional Philippine Mahogany was the species Shorea polysperma. Sadly, unsustainable forestry practices led to its extinction. Today, Meranti is typically one of the species in the Shorea genus referred to as being part of the “Meranti group” within that genus. Names like Red Serava or Nemesu may be used, as well.
Why Meranti Is Better
Contrary to what you might expect, traditional Philippine Mahogany wasn’t all that resistant to rot or insects. In fact, it required a significant top coating, as well as additional work, in order to become durable enough for marine applications.
Meranti, by contrast, has long been used by boat builders as well as in quality marine-grade plywood. It doesn’t need any special coatings in order to be an excellent choice for exterior applications of any kind. Basically, if it can handle the kind of punishment that boats receive, it can handle anything.
How Meranti Compares
In many ways, Meranti is similar to Genuine Mahogany. Its density, grain structure, and working characteristics make it easy to mill and ideal for holding fine details. It’s much lighter than African species such as Utile, Sapele, and African Mahogany (which is another misnomer). It’s also typically less expensive than those African exterior species, offering yet another attribute in its favor.
If you’re looking for Mahogany, the closest place you’ll find it is the Fijian Islands (Fijian Mahogany), but you can’t find the famous Philippine Mahogany used to make Chris Craft boats anymore. The good news is that Meranti is even better than either of those species, for exterior use, and it usually costs less than their African counterparts. So if you’re looking for an excellent exterior grade species, look no further than Meranti. And be sure to contact J. Gibson McIlvain to place your next Meranti order!
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
For more information on J. Gibson McIlvain’s lumber products and services, call Monday-Friday toll free (800) 638-9100 to speak with one of their representatives.
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